'Masterchef': Gordon Ramsay appreciates (and feeds) firefighters

masterchef-gordon-ramsay-firefighters.jpgOn a warm, sunny February day in front of City Hall in Pasadena, Calif., there's a lot of smoke and some fire, but the fire trucks and firefighters on hand aren't there to douse anything -- unless it's hunger pangs.

On Wednesday's (June 12) episode of FOX's "Masterchef," the amateur cooks vying for the prize are busy whipping up a steak dinner for 101 assembled firefighters. They're eating in a parking lot, but it's at a long table with a proper tablecloth, china, silver and decorations.

To chef Gordon Ramsay -- who shares judging duties with fellow culinary experts Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich -- it's no less than these brave men and women deserve.

"At Sepulveda Boulevard [in Los Angeles], next to the Getty Center, literally 100 meters from my house, I was stranded on that freeway. Fires were spreading rapidly. That's when I saw these guys in proper, true action, just how responsive they are and how they almost manipulated this fire to go down the valley away from houses," Ramsay tells Zap2it during a break in filming.

"Extraordinary firefighters," he adds.

"I'm amazed," says Elliot, "there's no book nationally in America that is the best 100 recipes from these firefighters."

Adds Bastianich, "In New York after 9/11, I think we all understood the significance of firefighters for this country, the true heroes that they are. But that really cemented it in our culture.

MasterChef-Pasadena-Firefighters.jpg"We welcome them into our restaurants in New York, and we feed them. Since then, they've come to play such an important role as heroes. People who come to our city, if your house is burning down, and your family's in it, they're on the front lines."

Assembled in a nearby parking garage awaiting the dinner bell, the firefighters are eager to dig in.

"I think it's going to be great," says firefighter Mitch Orsatt, from Carson, Calif. "We all love a nice home-cooked meal. Everybody in the department knows how to cook something, so this is a big lesson, to have some else finally cook for us."

Engineer Charles Knight, whose office is in the nearby community of Arcadia, says, "It's also exciting because firemen brag about how great they can cook, so it's exciting to be able to taste outside-the-fire-department cooking, to see how other people cook, their expertise."

"Firehouse cooking is legendary," Orsatt says. "There are those that can cook and there are those who think they can cook. We have cooks; we have chefs; and then we have the wannabes. We, as firemen, have put each other on the spot. We'll eat, but we'll let you know how good and bad it is.

"We won't shut our mouths. I think so, boys, right?"

"Absolutely agree," says Knight.

Asked what he'd like to see on the menu, Knight says, "Quite frankly, at six feet, 265 pounds, anything would be nice. So, whatever they put in front of me, I will employ some of my magic skills and make it disappear."

Of course, every firefighter has his or her specialty in the kitchen.

"Over the years of being on the job," Orsatt says, "I've gained a repertoire of a number of different things. Usually when I like to cook, I give the guys options. For me, it's barbecue."

"I second that notion," says Knight. "I concur. They called me the Barbecue King when I was at the Pomona Fire Department. And chicken fettuccine."
Photo/Video credit: FOX, Kate O'Hare/Zap2it
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